This paper will show how, in the first actio of the Verrines, Cicero references the crowd as part of an effort to shame the jury into convicting the defendant. Like all trials, the prosecution of Verres took place amid the din of the Forum, where crowds would gather in a circle (corona) to watch the proceedings. This provided a ready platform for the ambitious advocate-politician, whose concerns could be many and varied. Ann Vasaly has recently argued that, while attempting to persuade the jury of Verres’ guilt, Cicero’s defense speech was also “a bold attempt on his part to use the forensic occasion for political self-representation before a mass audience” (CA 28.1  120). The trial afforded a similar opportunity for the courts as an institution, which at the time suffered from a reputation for corruption.
At the beginning of the speech, Cicero reminds his audience of the courts’ disrepute (infamia), which has made the Senate an object of popular indignation (invidia), and he suggests that a conviction has the potential to restore their good standing in the eyes of the People (Verr. 1.1). Additionally, he refers to the corona as the populus Romanus at several points in the speech – a phenomenon that Robert Morstein-Marx identifies as “interpellation” (e.g. Verr. 1.34-5, 48, 50; cf. 1.10, 17, 41. Mass Oratory and Political Power 2004: 14-5, 41-2 w. L. Althusser. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays 1971: 170-7; cf. J. –M. David. Le Patronat Judiciaire 1992: 472-4). With charges of corruption swirling about the courts and the guilt of the defendant supposedly well-established, Cicero uses the crowd to put pressure on the jury to convict: “Now, however, men are on watch; they are observing to what extent each one of you will maintain your self-restraint and uphold the laws in your conduct” (Nunc autem homines in speculis; observant quem ad modum sese unus quisque vestrum gerat in retinenda religione conservandis legibus; Verr. 1.46). And later: "This is a trial in which, just as the you will judge the defendant, so the Roman People will judge you" (hoc est iudicium in quo vos de reo, populus Romanus de vobis iudicabit; Verr. 1.47).
With this, Cicero appeals to republican ideology, specifically the People’s expectation that individuals invested with authority should exercise that authority in the interests of the community. In any society, a failure to meet such moral obligations occasions shame (pudor), and sanctions inevitably follow. The element of sight is critical to the construction of shame as it entails being seen to have acted inappropriately (R. Kaster. Emotion, Restraint, and Community 2005: 28-45). It implies an audience – in this case, the corona – and ultimately depends on perception more than fact. Cicero's rhetorical strategy in the first actio of the Verrines demonstrates how the corona could play an important role in enforcing judicial norms. Andrew Riggsby has argued that while politics, bribery, and rhetorical performance might deflect them from their appointed task, jurors were nonetheless expected to “establish whether defendants had or had not committed certain reasonably well-defined crimes” (Rhetorica 15.3  237; cf. Crime and Community 1999: 9, 158-9). While the evidence from the first actio of the Verrines suggests that shame based on public perception could provide a mechanism for enforcing norms, it also suggests that the opposite was possible: the prospect of “shame” based on public misperception (e.g. believing an innocent man to be guilty) might just as well distract the jury from rendering a “true” verdict.